Many parts of Europe should be ‘rewilded’

Posted Oct 1, 2015 by Tim Sandle
Rewilding is a process of environmental management focused on restoring natural ecological processes and reducing human influence on landscapes. A call has been made to spread the process more widely.
The argument for "rewilding" is that the process could be used to restore the ever-expanding areas of abandoned agricultural land throughout Europe. So, instead of mud and rubble a more biodiverse wilderness is created. The call has been made by the European Commission, drawing n a new research study.
In terms of the land available for such a project it is extensive. Active cropland and other agricultural areas has decreased by approximately 19 percent in Europe between 1950 and 2010. Much of this land stands idle.
In setting out the case for returning this land to its natural state ("rewilding") the European Commission states: “The benefits include reduced loss of money through subsidies, proliferation of diminished native species, reforestation, and the restoration of ecosystem services provided by wilderness.”
Caledonian Forest remnant at Glen Affric west of Loch Ness  Scotland with Mam Dodhail in background.
Caledonian Forest remnant at Glen Affric west of Loch Ness, Scotland with Mam Dodhail in background.
Wikimedia Commons
To show what might happen, a research group has constructed a series of predictive models. For this, researchers constructed a map showing the potential ‘wilderness quality’ of different regions. Wilderness quality is described as a measure of how readily different areas can be transformed to a more natural state. This is based on the following criteria:
Artificial light at night;
Human accessibility;
Proportion of harvested primary productivity;
Deviation from potential natural vegetation.
To be suitable, an area will need to have low levels for each of the measures. Data was collected using satellite images and collecting climate data.
The study on which the case for rewilding is based has been published in the journal Conservation Biology. The title of the paper is “Mapping opportunities and challenges for rewilding in Europe.”
In related news, plans are being considered to re-introduce some lost species back into the British countryside and U.K waters. Among the species being considered are wolves, whales and lynxes.